Discussion on Water Meters—Service and Repairs
Round Table Discussion on This Important Subject at Convention of Indiana Sanitary and Water Supply Association—Two of the Leading Addresses
AT the thirteenth annual meeting of the Indiana Sanitary and Water Supply Association, held at French Lick, Indiana, on March 8 and 9, 1920, a round table discussion was held on the subject of “Water Meters, Service and Repairs.” The principal speakers on that occasion who led the discussion were Dow R. Gwinn, president and manager of the Terre Haute, Ind., Water Works Company, and Charles W. Winkle, superintendent, meter department, Indianapolis, Ind., Water Company. We are privileged in being able to present to our readers the addresses of these gentlemen, who are well qualified to speak on the subject:
DISCUSSION BY DOW R. GWINN
I take it that the idea is to discuss meters from every practical standpoint, and any remarks about meters will be appropriate.
First, let me say that from January 1 to March 1, this year, we had forty meters frozen. Twenty-two were in 15-inch outside settings, eleven in brick pits, 2 feet 8 inches in diameter by 3 feet deep; four in basements and two in 18-inch outside settings. The meters are owned by the company and set free of charge. They are kept in repair without cost to the consumer, unless the damage is caused by hot water from the consumer’s premises. Ordinary sized meters are tested on 116-inch and full streams before being set. They are also tested when removed and before they are opened. The company has a standing offer on the meter bills to test meters in the presence of consumers free of charge. Practically all meters are repaired in our shop, the exception being large meters such as 4-inch and 6-inch.
When a meter reading indicates an unusual consumption. a printed postal card is mailed to the consumer before the bill is delivered. An offer is made to send one of our men to make an inspection free of charge. We think it is good policy to advise the consumer as early as possible, so that if he has a leak, repairs can be made without delay. When requested to do so, we take a second reading and send a printed postal, showing both readings.
In unusual cases, we take daily readings and use the aquaphone in an effort to locate underground leaks. In some cases, when a meter is registering slowly and no leaks are found in the house, the stop and waste at the point where the service enters the cellar, is closed and the meter watched. With our sandy soil, underground leaks may continue for quite a while without showing on the surface. Every reasonable effort is made to assist in locating leaks so that the consumer can have repairs made and reduce the consumption to normal.
All meters are read monthly and bills rendered covering that period.
The cost of repairing, testing and maintaining meters in the year 1919 was $522.61 for material and $1,721 for labor, a total of $2,243.61. As we have 7,700 meters in use, the average cost per meter was about 29 cents.
The expenses on customers’ premises were as follows : Inspecting plumbing, $304.25; investigating large bills and service, $935.91; turning off and on, $2,694.62; changing meters for test, $20.20; removing and setting meters, $479.45, a total of $4,434.42. Average for 7,900 consumers, 56 cents.
Cost of reading meters in year 1919 was $2,600.06; average per meter per year, 34 cents; average per meter per month a little less than three cents. Cost of delivering bills in year 1919 was $1,289.96; average per bill per year, .166 cents; average per bill per month, .014 cents, Cost of office clerks making out bills, receiving payments and taking care of customers’ bills in year 1919 was $5,417.92, or an average of .69 cents. Cost of repairing leaks and changing service connections from main to curb in 1919 was $546.51 for material, and $710.96 for labor, a total of $1,257.47. Average cost per service .159 cents.
We are 97 per cent, metered. Our minimum monthly rate for 5/8-inch meters is 75 cents, for which the consumer is allowed 3,000 gallons during the month, or 100 gallons per day.
In the year 1918, 63 per cent, of all our metered bills were not over 75 cents per month. The summer of 1919 was an unusually dry one, and yet the average monthly meter bill for the entire year was only $1.94. Leaving out the 63 industrial and railroad consumer bills, the average per month for all the balance was $1.27. We contend that so long as our average bills do not exceed these amounts, it is practically impossible to make money in the water works business under present conditions. For instance, we are required to furnish and maintain the service pipe from the main to the curb, and also furnish and maintain the meter. For small service pipes, we use 5/8-inch extra strong leadpipe, inverted key curb cocks with lead flanges and tail pieces and Buffalo curb boxes. Most of our meters are set on the grass plot near the curb. We are using for this purpose two 20-inch by 24inch sewer pipe with an iron cover having an 8-inch opening or throat.
The average cost in the year 1918 for a service from the main to the curb, including the meter and installation. was $42.27. The present cost is higher, due to the increased cost of material. In other words, where it is necessary to put in an installation of this character, we are required to invest over $42, in addition to our general investment for pumps, boilers, filters, buildings, reservoirs and street mains, to get a customer who will pay us, say a dollar or a little over per month. In my opinion the rate is not sufficient when the investment and character of service are considered.